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Honduras prepares for a presidential election that is debated between two country models and ends the Hernández era

More than five million people are called to vote in the general elections of Honduras next Sunday, November 28, to elect the successor of Juan Orlando Hernández, who has been in command of the Central American country for two consecutive periods (2014-2018 and 2018- 2022).

In addition to voting for the next president, Hondurans will elect three presidential appointees, a 20 members of the Central American Parliament, to 128 deputies of the National Congress already 298 mayors and their respective councilors.

14 candidates for the Presidency appear on the ballot, although only two candidates are emerging as favorites. On the one hand, the leftist candidate of Libertad y Refundación (Libre), Xiomara Castro, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in a coup in 2009. While the conservative party appeared on the part of the ruling National Party Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura, current mayor of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

The Honduran population was deprived of listening to the main applicants discuss their main projects in terms of security, justice, health or education. Both Castro and Asfura were absent from the presidential debate organized by the University of San Pedro Sula in mid-October. Meanwhile, the exercise by the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (Cohep), scheduled for November 7, was also canceled due to lack of response from candidates.

Opposite poles

The candidates of the National and Free Party represent opposite poles in the face of this electoral day.

Asfura declared in the campaign that “the father government cannot continue to operate in the way it is operating.” For the candidate of the National Party, decentralization is essential, which is why he was in favor of be the municipalities who administer the budget and execute state programs.

In contrast, Castro proclaims that it is indispensable that the state again assume your “responsibility to plan all your policies and social activities”, with regard to economic, safety and environmental matters.

Health and education

Castro rejects the privatization of the health system and instead proposes “substantially increase the budget assigned to Health “. In his campaign promises stands out the elimination of quotas that are made in hospitals and health centers of the public sector.

In this sector, ‘Tito’ Asfura advocates creating “an emergency care and triage center in each municipality” of the nation.

In educational matters, the candidate of the Libertad y Refundación party proposes the “free and universal education“, with the return of free tuition and the guarantee that public universities” will not be able to reject the first enrollment of any graduate of the secondary education system. ”

On the other hand, the mayor of the capital is committed to increase technology in educational centers, at the same time that it has spoken out to improve the National Institute of Professional Training (Infop), which offers training courses and training to increase national productivity.

Jobs and crime fighting

To improve the security situation, Castro has expressed the importance of fight money laundering from transnational and national organized crime, linked to illicit activities such as drug trafficking, clandestine mining, illegal logging and human trafficking. In addition, the former Honduran first lady has among her plans the “recover public spaces attacked and controlled by organized crime“.

Instead, ‘Tito’ Asfura believes that the best way to combat drug trafficking organizations is to guarantee job opportunities for the population. “Giving work is giving the country greater security“said the candidate during a discussion organized by the National Convergence Forum (Fonac).

On the other hand, Castro speaks of the generation of massive employment, the economic stimulation for microenterprises and the reduction of the commission charged by banks in the exchange of currency from remittances that come from abroad.

On the matter of reproductive and sexual rights, the presidential candidates have totally opposite positions. Meanwhile he Mayor of Tegucigalpa said he would protect “God’s creation”, by guaranteeing “the right to life”, the former first lady proposed decriminalizing abortion in rape cases, when the life of the mother is in danger and when there are “fetal malformations that prevent a dignified life.”

Poverty, violence and migration

The Central American country comes to these elections amid several structural problems that have worsened during the current administration of Hernández, who reached his second term after a controversial Supreme Court decision that allowed him to stand for reelection and despite irregularities that there was the day of the voting.

Among the main indicators that account for the serious situation in Honduras is poverty, which is estimated that reaches 70% of the population at the end of this year, due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic. Violence is added to this panorama, since the nation registered the highest homicide rate in Central America in 2020 and suffers the consequences of the action of gang groups, many of them dedicated to drug trafficking.

These indicators, together with the 9% drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that was registered in 2020, as well as the food insecurity caused by the recent hurricanes Eta and Iota, have pushed more than ever a phenomenon that any of the winners will have to face in coming to power: irregular migration to the US

Recent data confirm that the detention of Honduran irregular migrants in the United States is, in proportion, higher than that of citizens from Guatemala and El Salvador. The causes of these mobilizations to the north are diverse, but most are directly related to the search for better living conditions.

For this reason, both Castro and Asfura propose strengthening relations with Washington to address the immigration issue, which is a priority for the White House. However, although the US insists on stopping this phenomenon with various measures and promises of cooperation, the truth is that migrants from that country will generate some 7,000 million dollars to Honduras in remittances this year, which translates into more of 20% of its GDP.

Asfura proposes stopping migration with the “technification” of the population and the country’s offer as a maquila for other economies, while Castro proposes the creation of jobs and development opportunities that allow combating the causes of this phenomenon, but without losing sight of full respect for the human rights of those who finally decide to leave their country for the United States.

“In the first 100 days we will execute a plan with the administration of President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to combat and address the true causes of migration, “promised the leftist aspirant.

Abstentionism and institutional trust

Just over 5.2 million Hondurans are part of the electoral roll, although the level of participation that the Central American nation will register is not clear. During the last elections, abstentionism was above 40%.

The current campaign has also been marked by the uncertainty that could be generated after next Sunday’s session, given the possible claims of the political parties towards the electoral authorities.

In the general elections of November 26, 2017, Hernández won with 42.95% of the votes, less than two percentage points of advantage on the candidate of the Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship, Salvador Nasralla, who obtained 41.24% of the preferences.

After the tight result, the Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship denounced an alleged fraud and the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) concluded that the process was characterized “by irregularities and deficiencies”. The entity described it as “very low technical quality and lacking in integrity.”

For this election, the OAS will deploy 91 specialists and observers in 17 of the 18 Honduran departments. For its part, some 70 members of the Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) of the European Union will monitor the event.

Jose Beltran

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